2019 Mazda Miata RF Review: More Power, More Fun

A fun ride, if a bit on the firm side

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF


The Mazda MX-5 Miata represents one of the least expensive ways into the sports car world. While its inexpensive – base Sport models start at $26,190 – it’s also one of the best driving two-seaters around. With the model’s latest update, Mazda packed a 2.0-liter version of its SkyActiv four-cylinder engine with just 155 horsepower. While that sort of power is adequate in such a light car, it could have made do with a bit more grunt. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata gets, as well as a host of other changes.

If the traditional soft top isn’t what you’re looking for, there’s also this hardtop RF version. The 2019 Mazda Miata MX-5 RF packs a retractable targa top and a characterful fastback roofline. An optional $750 GT-S package also adds in a limited-slip differential, strut tower brace, Bilstein shocks and a distinctive black roof. In short, it’s arguably the most capable and most powerful Miata to date.

While we drove the 2018 MX-5 Club (with 155 horsepower, remember) earlier this year, there are two burning questions we need to address with this new one. Is the power difference really that appreciable, and how easy is the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF like to live with?

Comfort and Convenience

Back in August, Nathan had a chance to drive the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF up the California coast – somewhere the convertible is at home. On the other hand, I grabbed the keys to our test car on one of the worst weekends to drive a convertible. Forty degrees, rain and sleet…not ideal conditions to have the roof down. However, that did afford me the opportunity to take off the rose-tinted glasses and focus on the car’s ride and comfort.

Here’s a caveat to driving the RF, or any Miata for that matter. It’s a snug fit, especially if you’re a larger person. The tilting and telescoping wheel helps, but there’s only so much room in a car that’s all of 154 inches long. If you’re a passenger, it’s even worse, as the transmission tunnel intrudes into the passenger space. Again, if you’re a larger person, you have to sit at an angle to fit properly. Those Bilstein shocks also make for a firm ride. It doesn’t crash – in fact, it felt remarkably solid. But if you live in an area with rough roads, the ride can get uncomfortable.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF does come well-equipped, particularly in Grand Touring trim. You get dual-zone climate control and a 7.0-inch infotainment system, albeit without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support (at least at this time). The nine-speaker Bose stereo system packs a decent punch, particularly in such a small car. There’s also blind spot monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Smart City Brake Support.

The power top on the RF model is also a pleasant feature. It’s decently quick – 15 seconds to go up and 18 seconds to come down. The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF also has heated seats, which came in useful on a cold, Colorado morning. Blast the heater and turn on the heated seats, and I didn’t mind driving with the top down.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. [Photo: Mazda]


For all the firmness of the MX-5 Miata RF’s ride, handling is where it absolutely shines. Mazda aimed for a purely enjoyable driving experience, and they did not miss the mark. Its six-speed manual transmission was a delight to use. Short, precise throws meant I was eager to make my way through the gears as I tossed the Miata into the corners.

The 181 horsepower 2.0-liter SkyActiv engine is a welcome upgrade from the old 155 horsepower output in the old model. It did feel faster, but it’s tough to notice the full effects of that 15 percent power bump at altitude. Turn the traction control off, however, and the extra power does make it easier to kick the rear end out a bit, which is always fun.

Despite the cold and wet weather, the Bridgestone Potenza tires stuck to the road, and always felt secure, even when pushing (within the legal limits, of course) into the corners. The suspension coupled with the low 2,453-pound curb weight made the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF a truly agile-as-you-like little sports car.

TFLcar’s Take

Admittedly, I am TFL’s resident Mazda fan. I’ve been loyal to the brand for years, and as such relished the opportunity to jump in the Miata. It looks great, and it’s excellent for some light-hearted, top-down fun. It’s thrifty on fuel as well, returning 26 City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined mpg.

That said, and as you’d expect, it’s not an ideal daily driver. The firm ride is a drawback in day-to-day driving, but as an occasional drive, the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF was a blast, and is certainly worth due consideration when you’re shopping for an inexpensive sports car. It also has some interesting quirks, as Mike Curtis points out below:

SPECIFICATIONS: 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $32,345
Price as Tested: $35,405
Engine: 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated I-4
Drivetrain (Layout): Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 181 hp @ 7,000 RPM
Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Suspension: Front: Double wishbone w/ Bilstein sport-tuned shock absorbers and strut tower brace (GT-S Package)

Rear: Multi-link

Brakes: Front: 11.0-inch ventilated front discs w/ single-piston calipers

Rear: 11.0-inch solid rear discs w/ single-piston calipers

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza S001 P205/45 R17 performance summer
Fuel capacity: 11.89 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 26 City/34 Highway/29 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 90.9 inches
Length:  154.1 inches
Width: 68.3 inches
Height:  49.0 inches
Turning Circle: 30.8 feet
Curb Weight: 2,453 pounds